When All Else Fails, Bake

My mother is no longer living, but I remember that it was always difficult to find anything to give her for a gift. Perfume made her sneeze; flowers in the house made my father sneeze. She always told us that she had enough stuff. Of course, stuff is easy to find and buy for a gift so, without resorting to stuff, what’s left? She did allow us some openings for gift ideas that she would enjoy. Her words: “If I can’t eat it, read it, or wear it, I don’t want it.” Clear enough.

The best Mother’s day for me has always been to spend it with my daughter and, now that she’s here, my granddaughter. We are planning a picnic. I can’t think of many things I want to do more than that.

So, if your mother is in the eat it, read it or wear it category, here’s something to try. I may make some for myself. They’re truly tasty.

Cherry Muffins

Cherry Almond Muffins with Streusel Topping

  • Servings: 12 large muffins
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4 ½ cups all-purpose flour, divided
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup sugar, divided
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups milk
¾ cup butter, divided
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 can (21 ounce) cherry pie filling
½ cup chopped almonds

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease large muffin pans. (3 inch x 1 ½ inch cups)
Mix 4 cups flour, the baking powder, salt, and ¼ cup sugar in a large bowl.
Melt ¼ cup butter. Add eggs, milk, melted butter and almond extract to dry ingredients. Mix until moistened. Batter will be lumpy.
Fill muffin cups 1/3 full. Put 2 generous spoonfuls of the cherry pie filling (5 to 7 cherries) in each cup. Top cherry filling with remaining batter until cups are ¾ full.
To make the streusel topping, mix ¼ cup sugar with ¼ cup flour. Cut in ¼ cup cold butter until the mixture is crumbly. Stir in the chopped almonds. Sprinkle the topping over the muffin batter.
Bake 20 to 25 minutes until the streusel is golden brown.

Pork Chops for Two

Another effort to combat the problem of leftovers is to repackage items that you buy into smaller sizes. In this case, I wrapped pork chops from a larger package individually. When it’s time to cook, I can take out what I need.

This is an easy, inexpensive recipe for two that is quick to prepare.
porkchops

Pork Chops for Two

  • Difficulty: easy
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1 tablespoon olive oil
2 pork chops
Salt and pepper to taste
1 green pepper, sliced
1 small onion, sliced
1 teaspoon dry basil

Heat oil in a small skillet over medium high heat. Season pork on both sides with salt and pepper. Cook pork chops until browned on both sides.
Top chops with green pepper, onion and basil. Cover skillet, reduce heat and cook until vegetables are tender and pork is cooked through.

Cooking Like a Copycat

A few years ago, we decided that eating at most restaurants wasn’t really worth the money. Yes, it was nice not to cook. Yes, it was nice to go out, but the food wasn’t the central focus of the event. Of course, restaurant meals are no way to cut the food budget and, if it isn’t good, why bother.

Copycat recipes can replace the food that is missed by cooking at home instead of eating out. Last week, I tried one of my husband’s favorites–Jack-in-the-Box tacos. I tried to follow this recipe, but I didn’t have everything listed. I had to make refried beans and, of course, they don’t taste like those from a can. I didn’t have the specific taco sauce called for in the recipe, so I used what I had on hand. I’ve never had a Jack-in-the-Box taco, but I thought they tasted fine. The expert, my spouse, said they tasted fine but were nowhere near the real thing. I guess I’ll have to go out for a taco dinner to know for sure.

Buddy

If you miss some of your favorites, there is a recipe for just about any restaurant dish:

The Baking Mix Scoop

There’s no doubt that a baking mix in the pantry can help you put something on the table quickly. There’s also little doubt that baking mix recipes don’t always taste very good. My mission: to change that.bakingmix

There are dozens of recipes online for baking mixes and I’m certain that any one of them would produce a good mix. I used one created by Sandra Lee on Foodnetwork. It didn’t make a huge batch like many of the other recipes.

Cost savings wasn’t a big issue in this pursuit. I don’t use baking mix all that often. (Maybe I would if stuff tasted better.)A 40 ounce box of Bisquick at my local Walmart sells for $3.28. That’s $.082 per ounce. The mix I used makes about 35 ounces for $.036 per ounce, less than half of the national brand.

Now to the cooking. The first recipe I tried was for Blueberry Muffins. They were awful. I’m still working on that one and I’ll get back to you later.

Next I tried the classic Streusel Coffee Cake. In the Fanny Farmer cookbook, there is a recipe that is surprisingly similar to the Bisquick recipe. The big difference I found was in the amount of fat and sugar. I boosted each to the levels listed in the Fanny Farmer recipe and the cake was delicious.

Adding a couple of extra things doesn’t negate the convenience of a baking mix. Comparing my alteration to the original recipe, the only extra ingredient I used was 2 tablespoons of oil. Sugar is already a part of the original recipe, I just increased the amount to 1 cup instead of 2 tablespoons. The flavor and texture was much improved by these simple changes.

Here’s the recipe I adapted from the original Bisquick cake:

Streusel Coffee Cake

  • Servings: 8-10
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Cinnamon Streusel
1/3 cup baking mix
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
2 tablespoons firm butter

Coffee Cake
2 cups baking mix
2/3 cup milk
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 egg

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 9 inch round pan.

In a small bowl, thoroughly mix the streusel ingredients. Set aside. (A food processor makes this step quick and easy)

In another bowl, mix together the cake ingredients until well blended. Pour into prepared pan.

Sprinkle streusel topping over cake.

Bake 30-35 minutes or until golden brown.